Potter barely struggled as Severus dragged him through the library and up the stairs. It was only when Severus opened his bedroom door and pulled Potter through, shutting the door behind him, that the true resistance began.
When Potter’s ever-widening eyes took in the huge bed, parchment-strewn desk, and covered windows, he planted his heels and bellowed, "This isn't the kitchen!"
"How astute you are." Dragging Potter over to the bed, Severus shoved him face down on it, holding him in place with a hand pressed firmly on his lower back. Considering the softness of the covers, Severus could apply a decent amount of pressure before he'd actually hurt the boy. He grabbed hold of the pyjama bottoms and Potter yelled unintelligibly into the bedspread, his legs kicking out furiously as he bucked and wriggled more than seemed humanly possible.
This would be so much easier if he were allowed to use magic freely, but with the Dark Lord's restrictions and his need to keep this moment secret, the less magic he used, the better. He’d have to restrain the boy the Muggle way, as obnoxious as that was. Severus straddled Potter's back as he stripped off the bottoms, then knelt on Potter's thighs, ignoring the screaming and kicking, as he carefully cut away the shirt, tossing it to the side.
The clothes he'd picked out earlier had presumably belonged to one of the previous owner’s sons, and Severus Summoned the trousers first, figuring the pants were a lost cause. Trapping one of Potter’s thrashing legs under his own, Severus somehow managed to get the trousers on. As soon as he pulled the cloth up over Potter’s hips, the boy’s struggles nearly ceased and he lay there, his limbs jerking and his back heaving as he gulped air. Severus worked the jumper over Potter’s head, but it was an easier task, as Potter only wriggled mildly this time around.
"I can dress myself," Potter said into the pillow when he finally spoke.
Since the boy had calmed, Severus shifted off his back, holding him in place with one hand. Potter lay there, silent and still, as Severus Summoned an old t-shirt to himself. “I don’t trust you with your hands untied.”
“I don’t want you to touch me,” Potter said, quietly but firmly. “I promise I won’t try to run. Let me dress myself.”
He’d have to release Potter’s wrists to get the jumper on, unless he was to cut it up, then repair it after wrapping it around the boy’s limbs.
“Fine,” he said, as he put one knee on Potter’s back to hold him in place and tore up the t-shirt. “After you’re tied to the bed, I’ll release your hands.” He didn’t expect Potter to behave, but when he grabbed the boy’s ankle and wrapped a strip of the t-shirt around it, Potter only gave his leg a slight jerk.
Severus tied him to the bed frame, then fully released him, stepping back from the bed when he was finished. He removed the chain binding Potter’s wrists together, but kept his wand out and aimed at Potter.
Sitting up, Potter pointedly ignored Severus to focus on dressing himself. He pulled on the jumper, then zipped and buttoned the trousers, brushing down the fabric. When his wrists strayed close to each other, Severus recast the chaining spell.
The clothes seemed to fit. The sleeves of the jumper hung down over Potter’s hands, which gave the boy an awkward look, but they concealed the cuffs on his wrists.
Severus grabbed the shoes and socks and tossed them to the bed beside the boy. Without fuss, Potter picked up a sock and pulled it on his free foot. Severus removed the remains of the t-shirt with magic, not wanting to approach any closer than necessary.
He waited until Potter was busy lacing up the second shoe, then lunged forward and grabbed him. Potter yelped and tried to jerk away, but Severus quickly pulled him off the bed and shoved him into the desk chair, casting the rope spell to bind him to it.
The result turned out better than he had expected. Not only could Potter barely move, but his arms had been tied to the armrest, making it a simple matter for Severus to access his hands.
Although Potter had been fully cleaned by the Healers, he’d still somehow managed to get dirt under his nails. Teenaged boys were disgusting creatures. Severus pressed his hand flat over Potter’s to hold it in place while he used a cutting spell to carefully trim the nails. After he was done with both hands, he cast cleaning spells over them. He Summoned a flannel from the bathroom and, pouring water from his wand onto it, scrubbed it over the boy’s face while Potter sputtered and glared at him.
“Stop it! I can bathe myself!”
Severus ignored him. The obnoxious hair had grown back unevenly due to Potter’s injuries, and stuck out in a frightful manner. Never one to use it himself, Severus had no hair gel on hand. He poured water into his palm and ran that through Potter’s hair, but somehow, that just made it stick out all the more. Of course, Potter would find away to defy him, even with his hair. With no other option left to him, Severus was forced to trim just the longest strands, and only slightly. The Dark Lord wouldn’t notice a smaller haircut, but a bigger one would be impossible to explain.
If only he'd remembered to shave the boy earlier! He couldn't do it without magic or Potter heavily sedated. If he tied the boy's head securely, it might be safe to approach him with a razor, but the Dark Lord would certainly notice if hair suddenly disappeared from Potter's face between memories. If Kreacher knew his master to be fastidious in appearance, the ruse would be discovered the moment the house-elf saw Potter’s unshaven face. Severus doubted that however; Potter was utterly slovenly.
Potter, blessedly silent and unusually complacent throughout the ordeal, finally spoke, "Why haven't you killed me?"
Severus felt for the bottles he needed within his robes and pulled them out, setting them on his desk. It would be easier to give Potter all the potions at the same time, but the Calming Potion was finicky, and had to be slowly stirred into the rest, with a few drops of a stabilising potion to help settle it. As he worked, he asked, "Isn't that obvious?"
Potter made a noise of disgust and arrogantly declared, "I'm not a cowardly murderer like you. I don't think like you. How the fuck should I know?"
Calmly, Severus said, "I wasn't aware you had the capacity to think."
"Fuck you," said Potter, never clever. "If you think you’ve won, you’re wrong."
The potion prepared, Severus turned to Potter. "There are two ways to give you this potion. Either you will drink it willingly, or I will force it down your throat."
Narrowing his eyes in defiance, Potter quickly said, "I'm not drinking it."
"As I expected. I'm only informing you of this so that you will know and remember there is an easier way." Potter wouldn't remember any of this, but he did deserve to understand that any discomfort was his own fault. Removing the glass stopper from the bottle, Severus transformed it into a ring and swept over to Potter.
His mouth squeezed closed, Potter glared at Severus, his silent stare a challenge. Severus calmly reached down and pinched Potter's nose shut. Potter held out as long as he could, but soon he had to open his mouth and, when he did, Severus shoved the ring inside. Potter's jaw flexed, but he couldn't gain the force necessary to crush the ring and shut his mouth.
Holding the boy's chin in place, Severus picked up the long, thin, flexible tube he'd brought to the room for just this purpose. "Swallow."
Threading the tube through the glass ring, Severus buried it deep in Potter's throat and poured a bit of saline solution through the tube. Potter's eyes bugged out as he choked and coughed around the tube, his limbs pulling against his bonds.
"Idiot. Didn't I warn you to swallow?" As the drowning sensation would only panic rather than hurt Potter, Severus watched silently for a moment as Potter struggled for breath, staring at Severus with growing desperation. When he felt the boy had been suitably punished, he cast, "Anapneo!" and yanked the tube up.
Potter gulped down huge breaths of air and Severus waited until he'd calmed somewhat before he picked up the tube again. "I can do this all day," he lied. "Now swallow."
It took three tries before Potter gave in and swallowed the tube. When Potter didn't react to the bit of saline solution, Severus assumed the tube had gone down the correct pipe, and fed him the potion before pulling out the tube.
He waved the stopper away and Potter made several loud retching sounds. He’d have to find another way to feed Potter potions whilst conscious. This one took too long.
Severus warned him, "If you throw it back up, I'll just feed it to you again." He cleared his desk as he waited, but the potions took effect before he finished. When he next turned back around, the boy was hunched over in his seat as far as the cloth bindings allowed. Stepping forward, Severus gently pushed up his chin to view dull and glassy eyes.
Holding him firmly, Severus forced those green eyes to stare into his own. "Potter, it is vitally important that you listen to me. Granger and Weasley are in severe danger. The entire Order is in danger. I will help you save them, but you must be very careful and follow my plan exactly. Kreacher can help, but he must be kept safe. The Dark Lord has put a high price on his head." To twist the knife and because he knew it wouldn't be remembered, he added, "Dobby was murdered, and Kreacher and your friends will be too, unless you do exactly what I tell you. The Horcruxes must be destroyed, and you cannot do that without help. The Cup is most likely in Bellatrix's vault at Gringotts and we need to get it, otherwise thousands -- millions -- will die. Do you understand me?"
"Yes," breathed Potter.
"Will you do exactly as I say in order to ensure Kreacher's survival and the safety of your friends?"
"Yes." He nodded, his eyes staring at some point past Severus's face.
"Good." Severus untied the bonds and helped Potter to his unsteady feet. The secret cupboard held only a few boxes and, with the viewing spell placed on the ceiling, Severus would know in an instant if Potter were to reach for one of the boxes that held the guns.
After positioning Potter in the cupboard, Severus closed the door. He pulled out the portrait of Dumbledore and informed him, "I'm having the boy summon Kreacher." When Dumbledore nodded and strode out of the frame, he prompted Harry, Summon Kreacher.
After a short moment, Severus heard the pop of Apparition and the house-elf appeared on a stack of boxes in the narrow cupboard. He bowed to Potter. Severus pointed his wand at the door, ready to burst in should Kreacher show any sign of recognising the curse placed on his Master. He sucked in a breath and prepared for the worst. If he and Albus had calculated wrong, Kreacher would whisk Potter away and he would be killed.
To his relief, Kreacher only looked at Potter expectantly and said, “Yes, Master Harry?”
Tell him that he is to locate where Bellatrix keeps her vault key, but warn him that he must be extremely careful.
In a remarkably clear voice, Potter said, "Kreacher, we need to get the Hufflepuff Cup out of the Lestrange vault. We need Bellatrix's key. If you can find it, please let us know where it is, but you must be very careful and not let anyone see you. If you can't stay hidden, then don't try to find it."
"Yes, Master Harry."
Foolish boy. Did Potter not understand the importance of this task? Why had he told Kreacher the exact name of the item they sought? If the house-elf should be captured or have too loose a tongue...
Too late now. It would require too much work to correct it and the more he went against Potter's natural inclination, the more likely Potter could break the spell and escape. Tell him that he's to report to Dumbledore’s portrait every three days, as long as it is safe to do so. Dumbledore will pass him most of his orders from now on, and you will only call him yourself when you need him. Dumbledore will meet him in the far west corridor of the dungeons. He had been stupid and clumsy not to set up such an arrangement earlier.
"It's not safe for me to call you, so check in with Dumbledore’s portrait every three days, but only if it’s safe to do so. He'll be waiting for you in the far west corridor of the dungeons. Don’t be seen."
Remind him that he's always to check with Dumbledore before appearing if you summon him. Have him go to the far west corridor now, instead of the Headmaster's office. While it was likely that Severus would retain his power as Headmaster and therefore none of the portraits could betray him, he hated taking chances.
"I don't want you to be killed on account of me, so check in with Dumbledore before you come to me whenever I summon you from now on."
It's dangerous for him to linger. Send him away.
"Thank you, Kreacher. Go now, before they find us. And, if you have the chance and it’s safe, check on Ginny and make sure she's okay. If you think she's in danger, get her to Ron and Hermione."
"I will, Master Harry." Kreacher bowed and Disapparated with a loud crack.
The boy's friends would be the death of him. Severus opened the cupboard door, and pulled Potter out to the bedroom. Undress. As Potter stood in the centre of the room, shamelessly taking off his clothes, Severus repaired the cut-up jumper and threw it and the pyjama bottoms on the floor next to Potter's feet. Put those on.
He was pushing the limits of the spell. He had already cast a considerable amount of magic. As soon as the boy started dressing, Severus lifted the Imperius Curse. Thankfully, the Calming Draught had been strong enough that Potter finished dressing and sleepily walked back to his cage on his own. Severus re-chained him once he'd climbed back on the bed.
He destroyed the urine-soaked flannel, relocated the viewing spell above the bed, and pointed his wand straight between Potter's eyes. "Obliviate!"
After he’d removed the memories, he returned to the library and, finding One Thousand and One New Uses for Magical Plants, he resumed the same pose as before, and shut his eyes.
There. As far as the Dark Lord and Potter would know, he had never gone in Potter's cage all day. He could cut off the earlier memory of entering Potter’s cage at the point where his hand touched the library doorknob. He couldn’t remove the entire section, as he’d had a visitor.
He plucked the book off the shelf and sent it to the reading table next to the sofa. Earlier, he'd ordered every book of which he could think that might contain information on how to get the Horcrux out of Potter, but he hadn’t had time to read through them all. As of now, it seemed a nearly impossible task. He'd already read everything he could find on Dementors, and no one knew how they removed the soul, or even if the soul was completely removed by the Kiss. None of the books that mentioned Horcruxes said how the spell worked, but he had expected that, as a frighteningly small percentage of wizards saw magic as something to be approached with a scientific mind, and the ones that did, rarely concerned themselves with why and how magic worked.
He trailed his fingers over the shelves as he examined his ever-growing library. How could he get that bit of soul out of Potter? With the soul removed he could find a way to keep the boy safe and hidden from the Dark Lord until after the Dark Lord was destroyed. Potter wouldn’t need to die.
No. He shouldn't get his hopes up. He needed to focus on convincing the Dark Lord to kill Potter, not on how to save Potter’s life.
If he could fake transplanting the Horcrux, the Dark Lord would have no reason to keep the boy alive and could be persuaded to kill him. But what sort of fake Horcrux container would be believable? Maybe another Potter body was what he needed?
When Karkaroff had subtly approached him about removing his arm and growing a new one, he'd investigated the matter in depth even though, unlike Karkaroff, he knew in his gut that it wouldn't work. The Mark on their arms was simply the visual manifestation of a control that spread throughout their entire bodies. Just in case, he'd investigated how to grow new bone, tissue, and flesh, something that had proved very fruitful during the treatment of Potter's severe injuries. An entire separate body would take a considerable amount of work. If he could even pull it off. Adding and reshaping were nothing like creating anew.
A secret, separate body would be a useful thing to have, especially if he should ever need to fake the boy's death. No. He would never get away with it. Even if he could grow a replica of the boy's body, how would he hide it? The hours of work could be concealed, but not the body itself. Still, it was worth investigating further. He pulled a few more titles from the shelf and sent them to rest on the table as well.
After he’d found enough books to keep him busy for the rest of the evening, he lit a magical fire in the fireplace since he lacked the equipment to make a non-magical one. He’d have to request firewood with his next order.
He slid off his outer robes and kicked off his shoes before sinking into the comfortable sofa. Closing his eyes for a brief moment, he reached into his robes and took out the picture of Lily he always kept tucked in his breast pocket. It was faded and tearing at the corner, and she stood in the centre, frozen at the age of fourteen, when she had still smiled at him like that, and they had been the best of friends.
"Okay, so you hold out your wand-"
Rather than pick up her wand, she asked, "Do we always need to use our wands to do magic?"
He paused to think, then guessed, "No, we don't need wands to fly on brooms. Or make potions." Then the answer came to him. "We did magic before we came here and we didn't have wands then."
She stretched out her thin, mostly bare legs, and readjusted herself on the small stone bench he'd selected out in the sunny courtyard, away from the other students. He tried not to stare at her as she smoothed her hands over her skirt. "Then why do we bother with wands at all?"
Surmising again, he answered, "It helps us direct our magic. Makes it better. All wizards have wands. They wouldn't have us buy them if they didn't work."
"I know they work," she said, somewhat dismissively, her eyelashes flickering fast. "But I don't see why we have to be reliant on our wands. They could break. Or get stolen. I'd rather learn magic without wands. I don't see why we can't."
He sighed to himself. She always did this. He would try to teach her something simple and more than half the lesson would be spent on 'why's or pointless sidetracks. Her questions were like aphids: pregnant at birth. Gently, he said, "There's a reason they teach us magic this way. They've been doing this for thousands of years."
She reached down to idly pluck a nearby flower. Holding it in her palm, she wiggled her other fingers over it, using her magic to make the petals twirl and dance. He'd always been curious to know how she did it, but didn't want her to know he didn't know. "But wouldn't it be better if we didn't need wands? Or brooms?"
He shut his book with a snap. Why did she have to ask so many questions? As patiently as he could, he said, "If wizards could fly without brooms, we'd do it."
Staring at her flower, she said, "I flew without a broom."
"You fell," he corrected.
She carefully laid her flower on the bench beside her and firmly said, "I flew a little bit."
"You fell," he said, louder. "You didn't fly, you fell."
She pinned him with a look and he had to look away and swallow his frustration. How would they ever get to the lessons if she kept asking all these questions? Unable to look at her when she was looking at him like that, he said more softly, "It may have been gliding, but it wasn't flying. It doesn't matter anyway. Proper flying starts from the ground and goes up."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her give a nod in recognition, then frown slightly, "If we can levitate objects, then why can't we levitate ourselves?"
He'd hoped that going to Hogwarts would cure this habit of hers, but if anything, it had only gotten worse. "For the same reason we can't levitate anything big."
"We can't?" she asked, her eyebrows rising.
He snapped, "Have you tried?"
If she noticed his shortness of tone, she didn't react to it. "Of course, we can't. I imagine we'll do all sorts of things when we're older, especially if we keep up our studies."
He couldn't help but grin at the inclusiveness of 'we'. "We'll be at the top of the class, especially if we devote at least an hour's worth of study to each subject each day."
"An hour?" She laughed.
"You're surrounded by Gryffindors," he reminded her. "They aren't intelligent. I don't want to see you fall behind because of a sorting mistake."
Her gaze shifted to the lake, and she absently brushed a hand against her wind-tousled hair. "They aren't all like those puffed-up pinheads. Besides-" She shot a glance his way. "Maybe I'm meant to be in Gryffindor. I'm not nearly as smart as you."
His heart pounded and he pretended to look something up in his book lest she see the ugly red that was surely spreading across his face. A compliment! He couldn't remember the last time he'd heard one of those. And she had given it to him. Her! He somehow managed to get out, "I think you're pretty- smart too." She was more than pretty, she was the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen. Should he say that? What was supposed to happen next?
She bent down and pulled a book out of her bag beside his feet, her arm brushing firmly against his as she sat back up. "Let's do Potions first," she said, opening her book. "It's my favourite and no wands are required."
He reluctantly returned his Defence Against the Dark Arts book to his bag. "Okay. You know, they do use wands in potion-making, just not as much."
"How do you suppose they make potions?" she mused. "Do you think it's like chemistry?"
"It's magic," he said. "It's not like chemistry at all. Magic is much more complex than chemistry."
Why couldn't she just accept things the way they were and not question everything? He'd go mad if she kept this up. "It's magic. It involves so many more variables."
Her eyes narrowed and her nose wrinkled, hiding some of her freckles. "You think that everything that wizards do is better than anything Muggles do."
He did, but he knew she wouldn't like it if he said it outright. Instead, he explained, "Wizards can do many more things with magic than Muggles can do with science. There's a reason we never have any need to turn to science."
"Never?" she asked, the accusation still plain on her face.
He was pretty sure, but he had to admit, "I've never heard of wizards using science. It's possible, but I doubt it."
"I think we could learn a lot if we worked together. I notice that you're using your mum's old books."
All the bubbly happiness building in his chest vanished. He thought that it wouldn't matter to her, that she wouldn't care about something like that, but she had noticed, just as he’d feared she would. Mother had said that they didn't have money for new books or clothes, but Tobias still managed to visit the pub every night. He'd been looking forward to this moment together all day, and now he wanted to return to the quiet safety of the dungeons.
She sailed on, oblivious to his discomfort. "Petunia said that science books are constantly updated, and that she could never use one of our mum's old books in her science classes."
Because we were intelligent enough to get it right the first time. "Petunia is jealous," he said. "She'll say anything to put down our world. Maybe we don't need to publish new books because ours update themselves. We don't need the Muggles."
Sighing, she said, "I just don't see why we have to live in secret. I don't like concealing from my friends that I'm a witch. And I don't like Mum and Dad lying to everyone about me either. I wish we could be open about what we are and work together with Muggles.''
"They made it so we have to," he pointed out to her. "They may not burn you at the stake now, but if they find out you're a witch, they'll try to put you in a madhouse, like they tried with my mother."
She picked up the flower, tucked it behind her ear and declared, "My parents are happy that I'm a witch."
"But not your sister."
A shadow crossed over her face and he knew from experience she would lapse into silence unless he pulled her out. Why she cared about that dumb Muggle's opinion, he'd never know.
He flipped through the pages of the book until he found a complicated potion. "Have you seen this Forgetfulness Potion? It doesn't have a lot of ingredients, but the instructions are extremely precise. I hope we get started on these soon."
She tucked back her hair and scooted closer, her warm skin just half a foot from his own. She squinted at the instructions for a moment before asking, "Why does the direction in which you stir matter?"
What a stupid question. Maybe she was right. Maybe she was doomed to Gryffindor.